Sunday, July 23, 2017

Brig 7/22--Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher (in front), Short-billed Dowitchers
& Semipalmated Sandpipers
I wasn't intending on going back to Brig so soon after my trip there on Thursday with Bob, but when we both read that the White Ibis (juvenile) had been seen again on Friday, we decided to go to down for the Audubon trip, this one led by Scott with assistance from Linda, Mike, and Carol.

The shorebirds are showing up in good numbers now--mostly Short-billed Dowitchers and Semipalmated Sandpipers. I'm happy to save my sight and let others squint through their scopes at the large flocks to find the less common species like Western Sandpiper and Stilt Sandpiper that are mixed in. Scott found a Marbled Godwit when we stopped at the NE corner, which is about the same place one was 3 weeks ago, and Mike came up with a bird that after much inspection in the glaring light and heat, the leaders all agreed was a Long-billed Dowitcher. Probably out of the all the shorebirds, differentiating between an LBDO from a SBDO is the hardest i.d. for me to make. This is why at least once a week, I like to bird with others, to pick up the birds I wouldn't be confident enough to list if I was by myself.

There is the concept among birders of the "sacrificial birder," i.e. the birder who leaves so that others can find the good birds. The concept worked twice at Brig. First it worked for us, those that remained, when about half the group left after lunch, not willing to face another 8 miles of heat, dust, and flies. We found, long the road to the Gull Pond and at the Gull Pond itself, a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, a Green Heron, and best of all, a Least Bittern. All these birds are relatively scarce at Brig and the bittern is always an exciting find.

But then it worked against us, as, after we all left, the juvenile White Ibis was reported. We looked carefully through all 97 Glossy Ibises that were there, and with eyes like Scott's, Mike's, Linda's, et al, I seriously doubt it was overlooked. Yet, we weren't gone a half hour before someone filed a report on eBird that the bird was seen right where it had been for the last couple of days, about 1/4 mile before the observation tower. We were the sacrificial birders. Hey, it happens.

76 species
Canada Goose 225
Mute Swan 10
Wood Duck 8
American Black Duck 4
Mallard 55
Double-crested Cormorant 50
Least Bittern 1 Gull Pond
Great Blue Heron 5
Great Egret 100
Snowy Egret 50
Little Blue Heron 1
Green Heron 1 Gull Pond
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1 Gull Pond
Glossy Ibis 97
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 10
Clapper Rail 5 NE corner
Common Gallinule 1 Gull Pond
American Oystercatcher 1 Turtle Cove
Semipalmated Plover 6
Killdeer 1 Observation Tower
Whimbrel 13
Marbled Godwit 1 Large Cinnamon colored bird with upturned bill
Stilt Sandpiper 5
Least Sandpiper 10
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper 320
Western Sandpiper 3
Short-billed Dowitcher 900
Long-billed Dowitcher 1 Larger redder with straight bill and rounded back
Greater Yellowlegs 10
Willet 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 8
Laughing Gull 100
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull 75
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Least Tern 2
Gull-billed Tern 4
Caspian Tern 1
Common Tern 1 NE Corner
Forster's Tern 60
Black Skimmer 50
Mourning Dove 8
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Heard
Peregrine Falcon 1 Hacking Platform
Willow Flycatcher 1
Eastern Phoebe 1 Heard
Great Crested Flycatcher 1 Heard
Eastern Kingbird 1
American Crow 1 Heard Upland
Fish Crow 7
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Purple Martin 5
Tree Swallow 3
Bank Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 1
Tufted Titmouse 1 Heard
Marsh Wren 3 Heard
Carolina Wren 1 Heard
American Robin 1 Heard
Gray Catbird 2
European Starling 10
Common Yellowthroat 2 Heard
Yellow Warbler
1 Gull Pond
Seaside Sparrow 3
Chipping Sparrow 1 Heard
Field Sparrow 1 Heard
Northern Cardinal 1 Heard
Indigo Bunting 1 Heard
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Common Grackle 1
House Finch 5
American Goldfinch 2

Thursday, July 20, 2017

IBSP 7/20--Royal Tern

Royal Tern, 
(the bigger this picture gets
the worse it looks)
Bob Auster and I set out for Island Beach this morning, where a number of interesting birds were reported yesterday. Unfortunately, you really needed a kayak or canoe to see those birds and we are landlubbers. We stopped at the Winter Anchorage first, where we could see on the sandbar a good variety of species. One of them turned out to be my first Royal Tern of the year.

Out on Sedge Island, I could see 3 "kids" I know, walking around with scopes. I've always said that you could walk out to Sedge Island at low tide. They did. But it does bring up the time & tide problem, because if you don't time it right, you're stuck there, or worse, if you think you can get back and find a low spot, you have very expensive, very wet optics. Happily they made it back with only a couple of minor slips. Out on the island they did see the Marbled Godwit (a regular out there for the last few years) but didn't see either of the two cool terns (Black & Sandwich) reported yesterday.

Bob & I then took the long walk from the last parking lot to the inlet, probably about a mile and a half one way. Low tide made the walking easy and after we got past the fishermen to the no vehicle zone where the Piping Plovers have nested (successfully) for the 2nd year, we had lots of Sanderlings and a few other shorebirds to keep us occupied, but mostly, we were amused by the Brown Pelicans in two, threes, and fives, that we saw drifting overhead. They always remind me, hard to say why, like the old Pan Am flying boats of the thirties.

But it was the inlet that was spectacular--on the old dike there were, according to Bob's count, 48 pelicans roosting, and scattered among them, were 40 American Oystercatchers. It would have made a great wallpaper pattern.

Some of the Brown Pelicans.
A report showed up on Jerseybirds of two White Ibis at Brig. Neither of us has White Ibis for the year, and Bob doesn't have it as a state bird, so despite my ambivalence about chasing, we chased, arriving at Brig about 4 hours after the email. And probably a dollar short because, despite looking at every stinking Glossy Ibis there, we found neither the White Ibis (juveniles, as it turns out) nor even a red-eyed White-faced Ibis. And unlike the pleasant breeze coming off the ocean as we walked on the almost concrete-like sand at Island Beach, at Brig there was a blast furnace wind that coated everything and you in dust, that rose in little puffy clouds as you swatted away the very hungry, aggressive greenhead flies. Fun.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Assisted Readymade

I brought home this summer squash for Shari today.  I was taught not to play with my food, but since it was her food, I didn't feel guilty when I added a dot with a magic marker and Voila! as my favorite artist, Marcel Duchamp, the inventor of the "readymade" would probably not say, you have an "assisted readymade," which Duchamp also invented, just a little over 100 years ago.

Brig 7/15--Western Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper
In the summer, there really isn't anyplace to go but Brig if you want shorebirds and waders. For the next 6 weeks there are weekly Audubon trips to the 8 mile Wildlife Drive. Shari & I went drove down with Mike for his first Shorebird Saturday yesterday. I was hoping for a little more in the way of year birds, but wound up with only one. There are a couple of shorebirds that I just don't like to i.d. myself unless I'm right on top of them and Western Sandpiper is one of them. Happily, Mike and another birder on our trip are much more keen-sighted and confident than I am, so we managed at least a couple of these southbound peeps mixed in, maddeningly with Semipalmated Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers.

Another bird I'm reluctant to call is Long-billed Dowitcher, which I was hoping to see yesterday. There was at least one there, but our group never saw it. Luckily, this bird gets more common as the season progresses until in the autumn it is actually the more likely bird as opposed to it near lookalike Short-billed Dowitcher, of which there were plenty yesterday.Voice is a good separator of the two species, like the two yellowlegs, but, unlike the yellowlegs, I don't ever seem to hear them chatter.

We had 12 shorebird species altogether, a couple of them of the supposedly hard to i.d. variety, but if I see a Pectoral Sandpiper or a Stilt Sandpiper, I'm confident of my identification. I don't have trouble calling; I just have trouble finding them in the ever shifting flocks of peeps and dowitchers. Again, sharper, more patient eyes than mine were of great assistance.

Two trips around the loop and a little walking around the trails produced 77 species for the day. There's probably no place else in NJ  right now where you can pick up that many species in a day.

Snow Goose 2 Continuing injured
Canada Goose 100
Mute Swan 5
Wood Duck 15
Mallard 10
Double-crested Cormorant 10
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 35
Snowy Egret 15
Little Blue Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 7
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1
Glossy Ibis 25
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 10
Bald Eagle 1
Clapper Rail 3
Common Gallinule 1
American Oystercatcher 4
Semipalmated Plover 5
Whimbrel 1
Stilt Sandpiper 4
Least Sandpiper 10
Pectoral Sandpiper 3
Semipalmated Sandpiper 215
Western Sandpiper 2 Rufous, bigger than semi bill noticeably longer
Short-billed Dowitcher 115
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 9
Lesser Yellowlegs 7
Laughing Gull 45
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 30
Great Black-backed Gull 8
Least Tern 10
Gull-billed Tern 2
Caspian Tern 3
Common Tern 1
Forster's Tern 100
Black Skimmer 55
Mourning Dove 10
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 1 Heard
Peregrine Falcon 1
Willow Flycatcher 2
Eastern Phoebe 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
American Crow 1 Heard
Fish Crow 4
Purple Martin 10
Tree Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 4
Carolina Chickadee 1 Heard
Tufted Titmouse 2 Heard
House Wren 2
Marsh Wren 5
Carolina Wren 1 Heard
American Robin 1
Gray Catbird 3
European Starling 20
Common Yellowthroat 2
Yellow Warbler
Seaside Sparrow 3
Chipping Sparrow 2 Heard
Field Sparrow 1 Heard
Song Sparrow 1
Eastern Towhee 1 Heard
Northern Cardinal 1 Heard
Blue Grosbeak 2
Indigo Bunting 1
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Boat-tailed Grackle 1
Orchard Oriole 2
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 3

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve

The Deerhead
A few years ago, when I didn't know the roads around here as well as I do now, I tried to find this spot, which I was told was a great place for hard to find warblers. I wound up, following Google directions,  almost getting plowed into by a dump truck coming out of a sand quarry dug out deep into the woods and the next right turn I was supposed to take was little more than a footpath going I don't know where.

Last week I went again and, just by looking at a map (imagine that!) I found the place with no trouble at all--basically I made a left off Route 70 and went 4 1/4 miles on Sooy Place Road. I think part of my problem was that I was reluctant to drive on a road I couldn't pronounce, but now that I know that "Sooy" sounds like a hillbilly calling in his hogs, I'm quite comfortable on the road.

And now that I know where it is and how to get there, I looked it up again on a few map sites--all their directions border on the idiotic--they may be a hundred feet shorter in distance but they are way more complicated than they need to be.

The preserve is truly deep into the Pine Barrens--hundreds of acres of pitch pine and jack oak crisscrossed by fairly wide paths. Going there in early July is probably not the best strategy, but in my 3 times there in the last 6 days--I've been getting really bored walking the same places lately--I've found a nice number of warblers and the place is unfamiliar enough to me that I get that frisson of almost being lost in the woods.

My first trip there on Thursday I saw both Blue-winged Warbler (a new bird for Burlington County) and the always sought-after Hooded Warbler. That trip was cut short by unexpected rain. Sunday, I saw my first Prairie Warbler there. I apparently haven't yet walked on the trail that goes through their habitat, because that's the only one I've seen. I got a little farther that day, but that trip was also cut short, this time because a local power outage made it impossible to close our garage door and Shari had to leave the house.

Today, I was able to explore for over 3 hours. I had seen a list by another birder who used "by the deerhead" as a location. I didn't know if that was a geological formation or an actual dead deer. I asked a Burlington County birder friend of mine about it but it was a mystery to him. Today, I found the deerhead--pictured above it is made out of some kind of soft, solid plastic, and I had passed it on my two previous trips, as had my friend all the times he's been there.  No wonder I have problems finding little birds deep in the foliage.

The Huber Preserve does feature a geological formation unique to the Pine Barrens, a couple of "spungs" (which  I can find in no dictionary)--they are somewhat akin to vernal ponds being pools of water not fed by a spring or underground source, but rather bowls of densely packed clay that depend on rainfall to keep them full. Unlike vernal ponds they are not seasonal. There are two listed on the trail map and today I made the trek up to one--don't try this unless you are really tick protected and aware because I picked off more than 10 of the little demons from my socks and pants--only to find that it was simply an overgrown dry spot in the forest. Not a drop of water.

It has been my observation walking in the woods & fields of the Pine Barrens--Whitesbog, Colliers Mills, the Cranberry Bogs, the WMA behind the house--that you are never really that far from a road. You can always hear a car or truck no matter deep in the woods or far out in a bog you are. The Huber Preserve is the first place I've been that I couldn't hear any traffic. Planes yes; they're inescapable especially with McGuire so close. But not an automotive engine in the 3 plus hours I was there.

As I said, summertime is not the ideal time to go here but I will definitely have to make it a go to spot during next year's migration. I also hear from my friend that Red Crossbills are in the area--I may have seen one today, a juvenile, because there was a striped finch that I couldn't place, but I didn't get a look at the beak and I didn't see it that well or that long--those damn leaves!

For my 3 trips I've totaled 29 species. Not very impressive but it takes a while to get to know where the birds are.
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Brig 7/1--Marbled Godwit

I was at Brig around 7:30 this morning; it was intermittently drizzly but that gave way quickly enough to high humidity, roaring winds, swarms of greenhead flies and even more annoying, swarms of oblivious photographers, two of whom stood in my way, two feet in front of the car with its engine running while they took pictures of...of course, Ospreys. By some miracle of restraint I didn't run them over. Wind AND flies goes against all sense and reason--one usually precludes the other, but not today. If I stood about 10 feet away from the car, the flies weren't too awful as they enjoy bouncing off the fenders of a warm auto, but the wind was maddening. In the car, no wind just dozens of flies which can be kept in check with the air conditioning, except that creates another wind in the car. Wind, flies, dust, jerks...why do I like this place? Oh yeah, birds.

And to make matters even more frustrating, I found a rarity, a Marbled Godwit, which had been reported yesterday, surrounded by a big flock of Glossy Ibis (which I had stopped to scan for the ever elusive White-faced Ibis), but when I went to get my camera, the bird disappeared. Gone to an alternate ornithological universe, I guess. Still, the large size and bi-colored, slightly upturned bill screamed godwit all the way.

The only other shorebirds present were a couple of oystercatchers, a yellowlegs, some Black-bellied Plovers, and good numbers of Willets and Short-billed Dowitchers. The ibis flocks outnumbered all the other herons and egrets combined. I was happy to find one each of Black-crowned Night-Heron and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, the latter clearly an immature bird.
American Oystercatcher
Black-crowned Night-Heron

By the time I finished my second trip around the dikes, I could write "I HATE FLIES & WIND" with my finger in the dust on the side windows of the car.

51 species
Canada Goose 95
Mallard 25
Double-crested Cormorant 4
Great Egret 27
Snowy Egret 21
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1 NE corner
Glossy Ibis 105
Turkey Vulture 3
Osprey 15
Clapper Rail 4
American Oystercatcher 4
Black-bellied Plover 4
Marbled Godwit 1 Large shorebird with bicolored upturned bill.
Short-billed Dowitcher 29
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 40
Laughing Gull 75
Herring Gull 30
Great Black-backed Gull 8
Least Tern 1
Gull-billed Tern 4
Forster's Tern 15
Black Skimmer 70
Mourning Dove 7
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1 Leeds Eco Trail
Great Crested Flycatcher 2 Heard
Eastern Kingbird 2
American Crow 2 Heard
Fish Crow 8
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Purple Martin 15
Tree Swallow 20
Barn Swallow 10 Nesting beneath stairs of Leeds boardwalk, as in previous years
Tufted Titmouse 1 Feeder
House Wren 1 Heard
Marsh Wren 7 Heard
Carolina Wren 1 Heard parking lot
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 3
Common Yellowthroat 5
Seaside Sparrow 10
Chipping Sparrow 3
Field Sparrow 1 Heard upland section
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 80
Common Grackle 4
Boat-tailed Grackle 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 5
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 10